By Marianne Curtis
In the last year and a half the Steinbach Task Force on Drugs has come a long way and they hope that with the support of the City o fSteinbach and the Steinbach RCMP they will continue to be successful.
At a recent council meeting, task force chairperson Randy Hilderbrand gave an update on the successes of the organization since their inception.
“Knowing that within our community drugs are a real issue we can really see the value of working together as partners to see this issue is resolved together,” Hilderbrand says.
Hilderbrand explained that the task force started a year and a half ago with a letter from a concerned parent who was concerned about the availability of drugs at the Steinbach Junior High and Steinbach Regional Secondary School.
“We are focusing on the drug issue and have come up with a mandate dealing with teenagers primarily – twelve to eighteen year olds in the Steinbach area,” adds Hilderbrand. The task force’s mandate looks at prevention, education, restoration and justice.
“The first thing we realized that we are short on addiction foundations in the areas – we have one person that goes from Falcon Lake to Deacons Corner, down to Emerson and Sprague – that was not enough,” Hilderbrand continued. In response, the Hanover School Division created a .75 position and a worker now does drug counselling to students in both Steinbach high schools, Grunthal, Niverville and Landmark.
The Task Force has also encouraged the creation of a mentoring program through BackStage, the drop-in center in Steinbach.
“Many of these kids need a positive role model in their life – there are about forty to fifty teenagers that would benefit from having an adult mentor,” he added. Youth for Christ has started a program called “One on One” and they have hired someone to run it in Steinbach starting this spring.
“People may not be willing to work with thirty teenagers at the drop-in center but they feel more comfortable working one on one – these are the people that we need,” he stressed.
Hilderbrand says that this biggest impact that has been seen in the last year and a half though was when the Steinbach RCMP and Ste. Anne Police worked created the “General Investigation Unit.”
For six weeks last fall, the Steinbach RCMP and Ste. Anne Police departments joined together to form a General Investigation Section (GIS). The combined effort between the two departments saw eleven people charged with drug related offences and four fire arms seized along with drugs including crack cocaine, powder cocaine, ecstasy, marihuana and mushrooms.
“We noticed a drastic reduction of criminal activity in the community – it had an immediate impact,” Hilderbrand says. “We hope that this becomes a permanent program.”